Member Success Stories

Ethen Fabian and Emmett McIsaac shine in the Bow River U13 Tourney

Fort McKay Chief and Council congratulate Emmett McIsaac and Ethen Fabian for their recent sporting achievements on the hockey rink.

Emmett and Ethen play for the U13 Sharks, a Fort McMurray Minor Hockey Association (FMMHA) team, and are the only two Fort McKay First Nation members on that particular team. Community Coach Shay Laurent said, “We have Approximately 30 youth from our community that play hockey for the FMMHA in various divisions and age groups. Minor hockey is a place for anyone who wants to play good hockey in a team environment and is a great way for our kids to make new friends, develop hockey skills, and learn valuable life lessons. Emmett and Ethen are doing very well for themselves and the whole hockey-playing community of Fort McKay is proud of them.”

Over the first weekend in February, the U13 Sharks attended the Bow River Bruins Tournament ‘Showdown in the Valley’, where they were undefeated in all their games and came home with the gold medal.

Ethen’s Mother Reba Fabian is the team manager. “I am very proud of the team and these two boys as they have improved so much and they both played so well. I’d never been a team manager before, but I am glad I volunteered. Being a hockey parent is one thing, but watching things from behind the scenes was very special, especially seeing how hard all the players work. Both our boys played their hearts out against teams they had never played before, from Calgary, Glenlake, and Fort Saskatchewan.

“Ethen has been playing hockey for the last 2 years and has come very far in the sport. He started in defense, then made his way up to forward and now is centre because of his fast skating and his slap shots.  He is really enjoying this year and loves his coaches and teammates.”

Their first game was against Glenlake where they won 4 – 2, then they defeated the Wolverines 11 – 1. Their third game vs Bow River was another victory, this time 4 – 1. This put the team into the gold medal game vs the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers where they came out on top 6 – 2.

Emmett’s Mother Shelley McIsaac also had good things to say about the program. “This is Emmett’s first year back after some time away and he was so happy to be back on the ice with the team. He loved playing in the weekend tournament and is enjoying every minute of hockey this year.”

And we are enjoying your achievements. Congratulations Ethen Fabian and Emmett McIsaac.

Alicia Gladue Honored

Fort McKay Chief and Council congratulate member Alicia Gladue on her recent recognition as one of Fort McMurray’s top 50 under 50 for 2023.

This award, given out every year by local magazine YMM (Your McMurray Magazine) recognizes stellar members of the community for their work in social. charitable. sporting and volunteer fields. Many of those recognized have years of dedicated service adding up to their being honoured by this award. Alicia, at 18 years of age is one of the youngest people ever to make the list.

Despite her age, Alicia was noted by the selection committee as being “the walking embodiment of Indigenous Excellence.”  She was the captain of the Northern Spirits, the first all-female Indigenous football team in Alberta, and the first woman in history to play for the Saints Football Team.

The committee goes on to note that “She is an inspiration not only to her people but to all women. She has demonstrated that age, cultural stereotypes, or gender expectations will not stop her. In addition, as the Wood Buffalo KidSport Ambassador she mentors and advocates for the newest generation of community leaders through sport.”

Describing herself as Indigenous and proud, Alicia is part of the Fort McKay Youth Council as the communications coordinator and is now at Mount Royal University studying Public Relations and Communications.

“I’m grateful to my mom for being the strong role model she is,” she told the magazine. “I’m grateful to my friends, my community in Fort McKay, and my coach and mentor Dylan Elias. And I’m truly grateful for where I am in life and everyone who’s pushed me outside my comfort zone to get me here.”

Fort McKay First Nation is also grateful you are part of us Alicia. Grateful and proud.

Please see the link below for the full article.

Riley Whiteknife Competes in Strong Man Event

Fort McKay First Nation Chief and Council congratulate Riley Whiteknife on his success in the Magnus Classic Strongman competition held in Fort McMurray recently. Riley took part in all six events that constituted the competition and won the truck pull, setting a time of 31 seconds that the other competitors couldn’t match. The truck pull is exactly what it sounds like, except bigger. Imagine trying to pull a full-size Chevrolet Silverado truck along a parking lot. Add three more tied on the back and that is the size of the task. Riley pulled those four trucks like he was out taking the dog for a walk.

Other events included the 240-pound block press, the truck tire carry-flip-drag where he tied for second, the weighted forward hold, the Argo 4X4 lift, and the loading event where progressively heavier stones are raised to a set height and placed on a platform. The stones weigh 269, 291, 315, 344, and 357 pounds. Big weights, big competition, big performance.

Riley placed sixth overall and as his Mother Elissa Whiteknife said, “We’re so proud of him. He definitely represented himself, Fort McKay First Nation, and the Wood Buffalo region with honour.

The winner, Colton Sloan, a Cree from Treaty 6, gets to represent Canada in the World Championships in Iceland. For Riley, it was a job well done, lessons learned, and maybe a chance to come back and try again.

Congratulations Riley.

Seth Grandjambe receives a scholarship

Fort McKay Chief and Council would like to congratulate the excellent achievements of Seth Grandjambe, a two-sports awards winner.

Seth couldn’t be at the Alberta Indigenous Games this year. He had already begun his academic year at his new college, Waldorf University in Iowa. Seth has a hockey scholarship that pays for his education and his game fees. “It’s a pretty great deal I’d say,” he told us. “I get to keep playing the sport I love and also get an education” Seth is studying business management at and playing for the Waldorf Warriors Division 2 Hockey Team. It is, as he says, a pretty good deal, but not a full ride so everything extra helps. He was therefore delighted to be awarded the Kean Walker-Littlechild Golf Scholarship for his performance as part of the Fort McKay foursome at the 2022 Alberta games. That money will be applied to his studies in the USA and Seth is very grateful for it, as he is for all the help he’s had on the way.

“There are too many names to mention, but I must thank Chief and Council for their support, as well as so many of the people up in Fort McKay, and special thanks to the E-Learning department.” Family is important to Seth, and he also made special mention of his family and teammates, singling out brother Ethan, sister Rane my dad Trevor, “as well as Simon Adams”.

The examples from the past are what drives Seth now. “Being a positive role model is important, representing who I am and where I’m from. Although I am the only Indigenous student-athlete on the team, I let them know I’m from Fort McKay and that I am proud of my history and my heritage.”

We’re proud of you too Seth. Congratulations.

Baseball friends, mothers, and sons

Fort McKay Chief and Council congratulate two of our youth, Ethen Asadi-Fabian, and Cruz Fabian, for their sustained baseball success and prowess over the 2023 summer season. The boys, who are cousins and best friends, played on the local representative team, the U11 AA Orange Fort McMurray Oil Giants. Their teamwork extended even further as Ethen, a pitcher, had Cruz as his catcher for part of the season.

They even had their own baseball cards. Cruz said in his that ‘getting to play catcher more and having fun with my team’ was the best part of the season, while Ethen was happy that everyone was so nice and kind.

“They moved up a tier right before provincials,” said Candace Fabian, Cruz’s Mom.” “They started at the very bottom against teams they had never played before. To then make it to the finals is commendable and we are so, so proud of all of their hard work.”

The baseball has also been fun for Candace and her sister-in-law Reba Fabian, Ethen’s mother. The two friends have had the chance to spend time together as they’ve followed the boys through the season, along with their proud dads Brad, Yasir, and Johnny. Reba also had a second job as ‘Auntie Reba’ the team’s official bannock and banana bread supplier.

“They didn’t get the last result they were hoping for,” said Reba, “but there is absolutely nothing these kids should be ashamed of. They played hard, and 2nd place was a huge achievement.”

Team manager Sophie Manuel was effusive in her praise for the Fort McKay cousins. “Ethen is a quiet kid, however as a baseball player he is a beast. Ethen loves baseball and has grown so much just in one season. He is eager to try out new positions and is not afraid to ask how to improve. He also had his first grand slam this year. I truly loved cheering on my favorite number 7 and seeing him with his buddies on the field.”
And Cruz?
“Cruz is quick on his feet and definitely one to make us giggle on or off the field. He is our little risk-taker and will make other players second guess what play to make, which is an amazing asset to our team. He can play any position, however being the catcher is amongst his greatest skills and nothing gets past him at home plate. His smile is contagious, and he will be missed as he heads up in the division next year – this was his second year in a row on the Orange team – but he is one of those kids that’s always happy to see you and greets you with a smile and a hug.”

For many of the players it was their first year of competitive baseball and to finish with a Silver Medal is a great way to wrap it up. Great job by the players and coaches. All the time and work has paid off.

Congratulations Ethen. Congratulations Cruz.

James Black competes at the Alberta Indigenous Games


Fort McKay Chief and Council congratulate James Black for his fine showing at the recent Alberta Indigenous Games.

James took part in the Senior Singles Golf Tournament and finished in 4th position. His score of 81 for the round was only two strokes out of medal contention as both the silver and bronze medal winners tied with 79s.

James has been playing since he was 9. “My Dad has always been my biggest fan,” said James, “and he was my first coach as well.” James and his Dad Leonard have been playing golf together since then, and still try to get out on the course as much as possible every summer, along with golfing buddies Chris, Christian, JJ, and Ethan Grandjambe.

“I’m so proud of how far he has come in the sport,” said Leonard, “and I’ll always be there supporting him.”

Congratulations James.

Goalie Leanne Grandjambe wins Ball Hockey Gold

Fort McKay Chief and Council would like to congratulate Leanne Grandjambe for the ball hockey gold medal she won at the Alberta Indigenous Games.

According to her proud dad Randy Grandjambe, “Leanne was asked to play when they saw her at the Calgary Stampede Show-Down, where her team won Bronze. She ended up at the Games as a special invitee, part of the winning U11 team from Lloydminster.”

“I’d like to thank my Dad and all my family for supporting me,” said Leanne, “as well as my Huskies coaches and my goalie coach Jaret Walsh.”

Randy is very proud of Leanne and has been with her on the sidelines every step of the way. He has seen all the hard work she has put in pay off on the ice.

“I’m beyond proud of how far she has come along as a goalie,” said Ryan. “That being said, none of this could happen without the commitment of our sponsors, so a huge thank you to BME, Fort McKay Alcor and of course Fort McKay First Nation.”

Well done Leanne.

Another Gold Medal for Tayden Shott!

Fort McKay Chief and Council congratulate Tayden Shott on his continued success in competitive archery, and for the positive way he represents our Nation.

At the Alberta Indigenous Games held in Edmonton during the second week of August, Tayden won gold in the Male Compound Intermediate category for competitors born in 2006 or 2007.

Tayden was also honoured with the Spirit of Belonging Award, a very special recognition. Tayden was nominated by the attending parents, athletes, and coaches as a competitor who best represents the traditions of his people and the spirit of the games.

Well done Tayden!

Tayden Shott Wins Gold!

FMFN Chief and Council congratulate Tayden Shott who today, July 21, won the gold medal at the North American Indigenous Games (NAIG)!

Tayden was competing in the 3D Archery Compound 16U Male class. After being in second place through most of the week, he came through in the clutch at the final, winning gold at the biggest Indigenous Games in the world.

Tayden, who has been competing for only two years, has already experienced much success. Earlier this year he came second in the Alberta 3D Target Provincial Competition. In 2022 he took gold at the Alberta Indigenous Games 2022, which led to the opportunity to compete in this year’s NAIG in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

This year’s event, the tenth annual North American Indigenous Games, brings together representatives from over 70 Nations to compete.

Well done Tayden!


Jim Boucher honoured by Canadian Business Hall of Fame.

The Fort McKay First Nation is proud to congratulate former Chief Jim Boucher on his induction as a Companion of the Canadian Business Hall of Fame (CBHF).

The induction is a great honour. The Canadian Business Hall of Fame honours the outstanding contributions made by Canada’s foremost business leaders to the economic growth and development of Canada and their efforts as role models for future generations of enterprising youth. Since 1979, only 200 business leaders have been bestowed with Canada’s highest business honour.

The CBHF notes that its Companions’ entrepreneurial and management skills, vision, determination, and perseverance have helped to shape Canada. The jobs they have created and the products and services they have developed play a significant role in maintaining our high standard of living. As leaders and mentors, they have earned the respect of their peers for their integrity and sound business ethics.

Former Chief Boucher joins three other 2023 inductees: Madeleine Paquin, President and CEO of Logistec Corp., Edward Sonshine, Founder and CEO of RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust, and Hugh Anthony Arrell, Chairman and Co-Founder of Burgundy Asset. The formal induction took place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 11.

“We are extremely grateful to former Chief Jim Boucher for the great strides taken under his leadership towards our nation’s sustainable economic prosperity and cultural preservation,” said Chief Raymond Powder. “He greatly deserves this recognition as one of the top businesspeople not only in the Indigenous community but on a national level.”

In their description of Boucher’s contribution to the national business landscape, the CBHF noted the following:

“Jim Boucher is an influential First Nations leader in Canada. Under his direction, Fort McKay First Nation has been internationally recognized as one of the most enterprising Indigenous communities in the world. Fort McKay First Nation is situated in the heart of Canada’s Athabasca oil sands. Mr. Boucher was the long-standing Chief of Fort McKay First Nation and Founder and Chairperson of the Fort McKay Group of Companies for three decades. He led his Nation to strategically take advantage of their geographical location by enhancing the community’s social and economic conditions.”

“Jim initiated effective and long-standing partnerships with industry and government and developed many successful First Nation-owned businesses that continue to create economic wealth and opportunity for the community. Jim believes that the preservation of FMFN’s traditional ways of life can occur alongside sustainable development. In 2020, Jim co-founded the Saa Dene Group of Companies, to continue his vision of increasing Indigenous, Diversity, and Inclusion through economic and social participation in the global economy.”

Former Chief Boucher was also recognized for his efforts to balance the economic needs of the community with its cultural and environmental needs.

“When I was young, our lands were pristine in the sense that there was no development going on,” said Boucher, noting that the Nation’s traditional lands have always been part of its economic life. “People made a living off the land. It was a beautiful way to live.”

As that way of life evolved, Boucher sought to protect the land and the community. The CBHF notes that he has always believed that the practice and preservation of a traditional way of life can occur simultaneously alongside long-term sustainable oil sands development.

“He has this great ability to think from the future,” said ATCO CEO Nancy Southern, who spoke about Boucher’s contribution. “Indeed, it is part of Jim’s talent for business that he always looked at the long game, to where the community wanted to be, and took them along that path.”

As a result of this success, Jim has been recognized far and wide for his acumen and humanity. In 2020, he was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence, and he has also been recognized by RARA, Indspire, The Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business, the Governor General, the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo, and many other business and community-minded groups.

Congratulations, former Chief Boucher, on your much-deserved recognition!

Congratulations to Dayton Wilson

Fort McKay First Nation would like to congratulate Band Member Dayton Wilson for his success as part of the Championship team, the Triple AAA Canada Crushers, in the 2011-born category at the 2023 Canadian AAA Crusher Desert Classic hockey tournament.

Dayton, who just turned 12, played left wing and centre at the held at the City National Arena in Las Vegas on the May long weekend.

The competition was a slow burn for the Crushers, who started off the tournament with one tie and three losses. They rallied big time to win their semi-final 8-5 over the On Top Hockey team. The Crushers locked down the championship, beating the Rocky Mountain Warriors 7-5.

The Canadian AAA Crusher Desert Classic featured Top AAA Teams from Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota, Saskatchewan, BC, California, Chicago, Arizona, Colorado, Manitoba, Ontario plus other locations.

Congratulations Dayton! Way to keep that stick on the ice!


Take a Bow, Tayden

The Fort McKay First Nation congratulates Tayden Shott for his recent performance at the 3D Archery Alberta Indoor Provincial Tournament held in Grande Prairie in March. The competition had nearly 150 entrants and took place over the weekend of the 18th and 19th. With over 80 targets ranging out to 50 meters, this is the largest tournament of its kind in the province. It was Tayden’s first time competing in this competition and he placed second in the Under 18 event, an excellent achievement

Tayden has had a good year with the bow. Recently he competed at the Arctic Winter archery event, and he has been selected to represent Team Alberta in the North America Indigenous Games in Halifax in 2023 based on his win at last summer’s Alberta Indigenous competition.

Proud Mother Lolita Ladouceur said, “It’s great seeing our youth do what they love, knowing that no matter the outcome it’s always about the experiences shared and the friendships made.” 

Well done, Tayden. Keep up the hard work and dedication.

Fred McDonald Nominated for International Award

Fort McKay First Nation Chief and Council congratulate Fred McDonald on his international award nomination for a poem from his recently published book.

Fred was recognized by the Spur Literary Awards from the Western Writers of America (WWA). Considered to be North America’s premier celebration of literature about the West, Fred was a finalist with his poem The Last Request, a tale of a journey a daughter undertakes with her dad’s ashes, on horseback, into the mountains and the past.

“It’s an honour to be recognized by the Western Writers of America,” said Fred. “The post-reconstructionist work the WWA have done in recent years has made it possible for Indigenous writers like myself to compete as equals instead of merely being seen as caricatures of the old Western narrative.”

Well-known for his work as a painter, Fred Junior (so-called to distinguish himself from his dear, departed Dad, Fred Senior) has broadened his horizons into literary matters with the publication of his first collection of poetry. Dreams and Journeys is a look through Fred’s eyes at his world, both now and in the past.

Fred was born and raised locally and grew up in the bush and on the land beside the Athabasca River. His parents taught him the traditional ways of hunting and trapping and, though he has travelled the world over, Fred’s heart will always bring him home, to Fort McKay, his family, and his community. This grounding is reflected in his art. His paintings tell stories filled with the imagery of his people, and now his poetry is an extension of that same storytelling. The poems are richly imagined yet warm-hearted; easy to read, and eager to be read again.

Fred’s poetry is of its own time and place in the community. His memories of playing golf on MacDonald Island which once belonged to his great-grandfather become an examination of what is gone forever. A story about John Wayne is also a portrait of a way of life, growing up in a sharing community, making do with little. Elsewhere there is anger in the platitudes of perfidious colonizers and fear in the reminiscences of the Horse River Fire, while memories of a family canoe evoke the traditions of the past alongside the sound of the passing, rushing water.

Fred is a world-renowned, award-winning artist, painter, photographer, and now an internationally recognized poet. He is also a former business leader in the Fort McKay community, and past CEO of the Fort McKay Group of Companies. He served as the President of the Northern Alberta Aboriginal Business Association and was awarded the Regional Aboriginal Recognition Award. Yet if pressed to describe himself he would say he is a man of his people, his Nation, and, most of all, his family.

Nothing says this better than his opening words to his collection. “I dedicate this book to my daughters, Raven, Genny, and Grace, and to my grandchildren, Sebastian, Jewel, Johnny, and Zoe. Your unconditional love inspires.”

Well done, Fred!

Lina Gallup receives several honours

Fort McKay First Nation Chief and Council would like to congratulate Elder Lina Gallup on her recent string of achievements as well as recognizing her remarkable life. Just recently Lina was honoured as a recipient of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Medal alongside Councillor Raymond Powder. Lina was also asked to light the cauldron that signified the opening of the Arctic Winter Games and was disappointed she didn’t get to do it by dogsled, the original plan.

And to top all that, Lina was recognized as a Community Builder in a recent awards ceremony in Fort McMurray. This was a special award given to outstanding people for indelible effort, long service, and a sustained level of excellence and there is no one who deserves this more than Lina. Her entire life, and she is 92 on her next birthday, has been one of resilience, compassion, and example.

Lina had already lived more lives and experienced more of life itself than most when she was granted the first licence awarded to a member of the First Nations in Alberta to look after homeless and orphaned children. The Nekinan Group Home would help and care for more than 1700 children over the 20 years Lina was in charge before she finally called it a day and returned to her first home.

It’s been a long journey. Although her family is from Fort McKay, Lina was born near Fond-du-Lac, Saskatchewan as her Father was a trapper along the shores of Lake Athabasca. Her grandfather was Louis Fosseneuve, a contemporary of Louis Riel and originally known as Sure Shot for his hunting skills (later he became Captain Schott after shooting the Grand Rapids in a scow of his own design).

Life was good, until the day the RCMP and Government officials came and took Lina and her two sisters Rose and Freda,  and put them in the residential school system. Lina was 6. It took 65 years for her to come home to Fort McKay and live in the Nation again.

Lina spent thirteen years at St. Bernard’s in Grouard. Then they put her on a train to Edmonton. It was 1950, the ticket was one way, and Lina had no skills, no experience, and no real chance at useful employment. Her first job was as a cleaner in the geriatric patients’ ward.

It was dismal, but Lina never gave up. Over the years the cleaning jobs became better, she grasped every meagre opportunity she earned and eventually she gained a place as a nursing student. She also met her husband, the love of her life. She settled down in Calgary, had a family and for the first time in forever, she was happy.  But she wanted to help children. She’d spent thirteen years learning all the wrong ways to do so from her time in Grouard. At Nekinan Home, she was able to do everything the right way. And she did.

To encapsulate Lina’s years would take a book, maybe two. She has lived a life of such care, compassion, and love that everyone who has met her is affected by her warmth. Her strength of Spirit is so profound she could overcome her horrible start in life and find within herself the love that she never received.

Now retired, Lina’s last and most important job was helping to teach the youth about the culture of our Nation and its people. She also shared her story of the residential schools. “I wanted people to know what happened.”

She is still a wealth of knowledge among the elders and a vital part of the history of the Nation. Congratulations on your honours Lina, as well as a life well-lived.

Congratulations to Tyrell Shott for 100 points

Fort McKay Chief and Council congratulate band member Tyrell Shott on his recent outstanding achievements on the ice.

On Feb. 18, 2023, Tyrell, who plays for the Northern Alberta Tomahawks, did something no one else on his team has managed so far. He set a new scoring record. Tyrell reached and passed the 100 points mark in the league, the first member of the Northern Tomahawks ever to do so.

The Tomahawks are based in Enoch, Alberta, and compete in the Greater Metro Junior League. All season Tyrell has been piling up the goals and assists. His scoring streak was good enough to get him included in the All-Star Game in January where he featured on the scoreboard. 

Tyrell has deep roots in the Fort McKay community; his mother Vanessa Shott and his grandmother Jane Mercredi work for the Fort McKay First Nation, and Tyrell’s younger brother Tyrese also shows promise as a hockey player. This will come as no surprise to older community members who remember their grandfather Danny Augier’s playing days back in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

As for his grandmother, “Jane is Tyrell’s biggest fan,” says Vanessa. True to form, when Jane heard about his selection to the All-Star roster, she set up a fundraiser to help with his expenses as the game was in Bancroft, Ont. That was a success, and since then Jane, Vanessa, Tyrese, and little sister Tasia, along with all the hockey fans in the community, have been waiting for the next milestone.

Well done, Tyrell!

Congrats to Gena Calliou on her achievement

Fort McKay First Nation Chief and Council congratulate Gena Calliou for her completion of the Certified Indigenous Human Resources Professional Designation (CIHRP)

The CIHRP is one of the certifications offered by The Aboriginal Financial Officers Association (AFOA) which was founded specifically to help Indigenous people better manage and govern their communities and organizations through a focus on enhancing management, finance and governance practices and skills. AFOA Canada’s premise is that one of the keys to successful self-determination, creating a better life for Canada’s Indigenous people and a better future for the next generation lies in improving the management skills of those responsible for the stewardship of Indigenous resources.

Gena’s official graduation ceremony was held at the AFOA conference in Ottawa last night, the 16th of February 2023.

“We are very proud of Gena for this achievement,” said FMFN CEO Chris Johnson. “Gena’s knowledge and qualification will stand her in good stead as part of the management team at Fort McKay First Nation.”

Gena’s not done yet. “Next year I’ll be back for my CAPA designation,” she said. CAPA stands for Certified Aboriginal Professional Administrator and is a perfect complement to the studies she has already done and the work she does for our Nation.

Well done Gena.

FMFN Youth Receive 2023 RARA Awards

Fort McKay Chief and Council would like to recognize the following youth members of our Nation who were honoured at the Wood Buffalo Regional Aboriginal Recognition Awards (RARA) held over the weekend.

Congratulations to Alicia Gladue, twice recognized as Outstanding Athlete and as Female Youth of the Year, Jaxson Hunter honoured for Junior Achievement, Anna Mercredi honoured for Junior Achievement, and Grayson Shott, also honoured for Junior Achievement. Alicia and Jaxson were on hand to receive their awards in person, while Grayson was unable to attend but sent his thank you.

The RARA event took place Saturday, Feb. 11 at Shell Place on MacDonald Island. The keynote speaker was Mrs. Universe of 2015 Ashley Callingbull. The actress, model, host, and First Nation activist from Enoch Cree First Nation inspired everyone with her words and took the time to talk to all the youth at the event.

Congratulations to Miranda Beaton who was the event Emcee, as well as the Moose Lake Drummers for providing an honor song recognizing all of the recipients.

A special thank you to photographer Nick Vardy, who shared his excellent pictures with us. We wish to congratulate all the nominees and winners from the Wood Buffalo region.

Well done everyone!

Chief Grandjamb Teaches Students Traditional Trapping Skills

This week students at Elsie Fabian School learned practical skills for skinning animals trapped on Fort McKay First Nation traditional land. The animals were donated by Chief Mel Grandjamb, who also shared his trapping expertise with the students.

“I am Chief, but I am also a hunter and trapper and I want to share that knowledge with our youth,” said Chief Grandjamb. “There is no better way to show our youth our culture than to bring them fur.”

“In 1975 I was 10 years old when my father Wilfred first took me out to his trapline on a dog sled. It took three days to get there, and we had to camp outside for three nights. In those days the fur was our only income for the full year. We needed the money to survive.”

“Now I am able to donate the animals I trap to the school for teaching purposes,” said Chief Grandjamb. “I can also share my traditional knowledge with the youth.”

Instructor Junior Poulin, the school’s Land Based Learning Assistant, learned his skills from Chief Grandjamb as they trapped together for the last eight years. “My father taught me and his father taught him,” said Chief Grandjamb. “It used to be all family-based knowledge. Now I am able to pass on that knowledge to our youth.”

“I was very impressed and happy when I found out Junior was hired to be an instructor,” he said. “I taught him and now he is teaching others.”

Poulin is excited about the engagement and enthusiasm he sees from the students. “There is such a high level of interest,” he said.

“When I started in December, I didn’t know how much the students would like it, whether they would be missing their video games. But they really want to be outside and to be experiencing our land. They make me so proud every day. They go full tilt at learning, and they are doing an incredible job.”

The students have already learned a lot about skinning, fleshing, and boarding said Poulin. “Our next steps will be getting them out to the trapline and setting traps and getting all the experience around that.”

Poulin also takes great pride in passing along what he has learned about his culture as well as trapping skills.

“It is a privilege to be able to show our youth our land-based values and for them to experience that feeling of working together,” he said. “We teach the students about love and respect, to be kind to each other and to the animals. It is all about understanding our culture and our values.”

Chief Grandjamb spent 23 days on the trapline in late 2022 and donated the animals he trapped during that time to the program. “Any time I caught an animal, it was not to use for money but to train you guys,” the Chief told the students. “I thanked The Creator for the animal to use to train you.”

The students in the skinning class included Abigail McClure, age 12 in Grade 7, who skinned a fisher. Malibu Grandjambe, age 14 and in Grade 9, and Zyree Janvier, age 14 and in Grade 8, each skinned a lynx. Danica McDonald was in attendance.

While the other students had previously had training, Hailey Calliou, age 11 and in Grade 6, was learning for the first time. When Hailey completed skinning her mink, she got a round of applause and congratulations from fellow students and her instructors.

“It is a great supportive atmosphere,” said the Chief. “There were no girls doing this when I was growing up. It is good to see them interested and involved. The big thing is to develop the program for everyone.”

The skinning class is linked to the Elsie Fabian curriculum, which emphasizes land-based learning in all aspects. The enthusiastic students are already sharing their knowledge with each other and helping new students as they begin their learning journey. Plans for next year include day camps and an overnight trip.

The chief imparted his traditional knowledge to the students, teaching them about different types of fur and their unique properties. He handed around pelts at different stages of the process from stretched on boards to tanned so that they could see and feel the difference.

The most important rule, he told the students, was to honour the animal for its part in our nation’s traditions. “Always respect your animal. Never disrespect it. No laughing or joking. We don’t do that. Never, never disrespect an animal.”

The skinning class is just one of the ways the Chief passes on traditional knowledge. He and Birch Mountain Enterprises began a program several years ago called Awake Cultural Camp. The program teaches fundamentals of hunting and trapping and carries on the tradition of passing along knowledge.  “When Chris Wilson was young, I passed on traditional skills to him,” said Chief Grandjamb, “and now we are working together to pass those on to the next generation.”

“Under the Awake program, I felt I had to give back to the community. Teaching trapping was how I was going to do that.  Now is the time in my life to give back.”


Congratulations to New Peace Officers

Fort McKay First Nation Chief and Council congratulate Christian McDonald and Nick Laurent for their completion of the Community Peace Officer Training course.

The official graduation ceremony was held last night, Tuesday, Dec. 20, at the Peace Officer Training Academy in Edmonton.

“We are very proud of Christian and Nick for this tremendous accomplishment,” said Chief Mel Grandjamb. “As Community Peace Officers they will be making an important contribution to safeguarding our community and our traditional values.”

Officers Christian and Nick will soon be on duty in Fort McKay. Peace Officers are a community-based addition to our Nation’s safety and security team. They do not replace the RCMP. Rather they are a local knowledge complement to them, with the power to enforce certain legislation within the community.

Parks and Land Lead Craig Randell said, “The Fort McKay Park Ranger team and the Sustainability Department would like to applaud Christian McDonald and Nicholaus Laurent on their achievement, the successful completion of the Community Peace Officer Training, Academy Class Number 37. The Park Ranger Program is excited to have Nick and Christian return with their newly acquired skills and training!”

Once again, well done to both of you.

Megan Shott’s video highlights the community

Chief Mel Grandjamb and the Fort McKay First Nation congratulate member Megan Shott for the launch of her short-form video production at the recent Buffy Awards in Fort McMurray. “My Girl” was part of the Connection to Land series curated by Luay Eljamal from Symmetree Theatre and the Arts Council of Wood Buffalo, featuring three Indigenous artists exploring stories important to them individually as well as their communities.

Megan’s film is set in the Northern Boreal Forest. The story begins when she rises from the moss and embarks on a path to explore the woods. She eventually finds a handwritten letter signed with an “X” and she retrieves access to a remote cabin. Inside, she meets someone who seems to have been waiting for her this entire time. It subtly investigates cultural beliefs, identity, family history and completeness through her love of both her land and her people. Although it is a short film, there are layers of meaning that beg you to watch it again. It is that rare gem, an empowering story that is both beautiful and needed in today’s era.

For those who know Megan, you will see she includes her family in the film. There is an old photo of Baby Megan with her older brother, Dustin Nokohoo, and archival footage of the late David Janvier.

“Writing this dreamscape story was a reflection on specific events throughout my life, from the day I was born, my golden year, my early 20s, to this past summer,” said Megan. It is apparent that the story is filled with delicate details about her lived experience as a modern Dene and Cree woman.

“Zara says one word [SUHK-GEE-UH] in Dene in the film and it translates to Auntie. I felt that it was important that she speaks the language, even if it ended up being the one word because it is a gift when we do use our mother tongue,” said Megan, expressing the importance of using Dene language in the film.

Currently, Megan is working towards a Master of Social Work and continuing to write creatively for potential projects. Megan was featured in YMM Magazine earlier this year and she aspires to publish a book in the future.  She was also present during Learning on the Land Week at the Elsie Fabian School in September, helping her mom (Marina Nokohoo) teach the process of moosehide tanning.

Ivan Boucher’s new venture

Chief Mel Grandjamb and the Fort McKay First Nation would like to congratulate member Ivan Boucher on the occasion of the grand opening of his new business in Spruce Grove, The Grape and Olive Martini Bar.

“We opened on Friday the 4th of November, and we were happy to have some guests from the Nation here to support us,” said Ivan. “Chief Mel Grandjamb came, as well as FMFN CEO Chris Johnson and some friends from the Fort McKay business world, including Stuart Randell, and Sami Saad from the Fort McKay Group.”

Ivan’s business connections in Fort McKay go back to his time running Birch Mountain Enterprises with his friends and partners Chris and Lee Wilson. He sold his share to them after they had built the business, and his plan at that point was to retire. Then he started flipping houses, buying and fixing them in Edmonton, which became a job until the pandemic put a stop to that.

Ivan is the kind of person where free time chafes at him. He and his wife Jennifer talked themselves into deciding not to retire, and they realized Spruce Grove needed somewhere classy where adults could go out and have a good time. Thus the idea for the Grape and Olive was formed. They chose the name on purpose, the grape for the wines they would serve, the olive an integral part of a martini.

“It was good to have family and friends at the opening, backing us,” said Ivan. “From way back, even before I was with Birch Mountain Enterprises, Fort McKay First Nation has supported me all the way.”

The business, is up on the second floor, right in the middle of the town, and it exudes class and good cheer. The menus are seasonal, the wines curated and the martinis crafted by the expert staff. Ivan and Jennifer have created the kind of entertainment they wanted as customers.

Ivan’s come a long way since his first job on the oil sands. He’s worked hard and been successful, and Fort McKay First Nation would like to extend their congratulation on Ivan’s new business venture. Best wishes.

Miranda Beaton, Top 50 Under 50 Recognition

Chief Mel Grandjamb and the Fort McKay First Nation would like to congratulate member Miranda Beaton. Miranda has been chosen as one of YMM Magazine’s 2022 Top 50 under 50 people in the wider community of Wood Buffalo. This honor is bestowed on community members who love their community and give of their gifts, their talents, their time, and their hard work to positively impact the lives of those around them.

“We are ecstatic that Miranda has received this much-deserved honour,” says Chief Mel Grandjamb. “We are also delighted that Miranda is now going to be using her many talents as emcee of cultural and festival events for our Nation.”

Miranda says she never expected to find herself on this list of local movers and shakers who embody generosity, grit, kindness, loyalty, and determination. She tells a story about how in 2001, NHL coach Ted Nolan of the Ojibwe Nation gave the commencement address to the 43 graduating Indigenous students of the Wood Buffalo area. Miranda remembers being there and she remembers Ted Nolan, but she doesn’t recall being the kind of student who would be recognized. “I always struggled in school,” she said.

And yet anyone who knows Miranda will not be at all surprised at her being selected for this honour. There are many reasons why she deserves this award, and the many achievements she has packed into her life. “The most rewarding aspect of my career is having the opportunity to work for my Nation, building the workforce and talent pool, not only within the Indigenous peoples but also in the Wood Buffalo Region and beyond.”

Among her successes, Miranda was instrumental in setting up the FMFN Human Resources department. The aim was to create opportunities for and within the community, a goal that is close to her heart. In her sixteen years and counting with the Fort McKay First Nation she has worked just about every job in Human Resources, including a valuable period as the Director. She later went on to play an important role in developing Fort McKay’s education department and also led that for a while.

When she was forced to step away from the pressures of work, it was only because of an insidious new challenge; cancer. It was a long hard battle and when she beat it, rather than sitting back and relaxing, she chose to carry on her personal path of continuous improvement.

“A year after completing my treatment I applied to Simon Fraser University’s Indigenous Business Leadership MBA program.” It’s the only Master’s program of its kind in the country and Miranda is on target to complete it in 2023.

If you ask her, Miranda will list her greatest achievements as her family, especially her two sons. Apart from that? “I believe that showing up as the truest version of yourself, showing vulnerability and authenticity, allows others to do the same. “

We look forward to seeing what Miranda does next.

You can read the YMM Magazine profile of Miranda here:

Chris Wilson honoured at the National Philanthropy Awards.

Chief Mel Grandjamb and the Fort McKay First Nation are proud to congratulate Chris Wilson on the recognition he received at the awards ceremony in honour of National Philanthropy Day. The ceremony, which took place in Edmonton on the 15th of November saw nominees in the fields of the Arts and Culture, Education, Community Enrichment, The Environment, Social Services, Youth, and Health.

Chris was nominated by Fort McMurray’s Northern Lights Health Foundation in the health category, which recognizes people and groups who give their time, talent, and resources to better the health and well-being of their community. Chris and Birch Mountain Enterprises have raised over $500 000 in the last five years towards the foundation’s work, and this generosity has made a meaningful difference to the hospital and the services it is able to provide.

“Saving patients from pain and helping with healing are so important to the quality of life we all want for ourselves and our families,’ said Chris. He speaks from experience. As a youth, Chris suffered a gunshot wound to the chest while on a hunting trip. He believes that it was the care and treatment he received at the Northern Lights Health Foundation that saved his life.

As a result, as soon as Chris was in a position to do something for his community, it was a small wonder he focused on the Health Foundation. “I’m a proud donor and will continue to keep healthcare close to home with my donations.”

Chris sees what he does as an investment in the health of his family, friends, employees, and community and he feels the need to set an example for others. “We must continue to use our funds and donations to invest in advancing local healthcare services and help each other.”

Chris is a proud band member of the Fort McKay First Nation, and the Nation is proud of Chris and all he does for the community.

Blair Bellerose Releases New Video

Chief Mel Grandjamb and the Fort McKay First Nation would like to congratulate member Blair Bellerose on launching his first-ever video with Butterfly Wings, the latest single from his band Midnight Sparrows.

Blair wrote the song to honour his mother Freda Bellerose, an Indigenous Elder and residential school survivor who passed away last year at the age of 87. The song celebrates all she taught Blair about how to live a good life, while also contemplating the process of letting go so that our loved ones can peacefully transition to the spirit world while we move forward with life here on earth. Writing Butterfly Wings allowed Blair to hold on to the lessons his mother taught him about living life to its fullest as he processed letting go of the one he held so dear.

“Spread your butterfly wings,” sings Blair. “I want to see you be divine. You are divine.”

Blair would like to thank Fort McKay First Nation for a generous funding contribution that allowed him to make this first-ever music video. He notes that while he identified as Métis for most of his earlier life, he is now also a proud member of Fort McKay First Nation thanks to a successful, women-led challenge to the Indian Act which allows for greater gender equity in passing on Indian status through the maternal family line.

Butterfly Wings is featured on Born in the City, the second album from Blair’s band Midnight Sparrows. Blair, who identifies as a Métis, Cree, and Dene singer-songwriter-guitarist, describes Midnight Sparrows as playing guitar-driven hard rock that combines elements of classic rock, power pop, and old-school heavy metal.

Midnight Sparrows’ debut album, Rock & Roll City, was nominated for a Native American Music Award and has been receiving radio play across North America and beyond. Born in the City is being launched hot on the heels of that success. It is a six-song rocker that will make you believe that the magic of rock and roll still exists and its power is as strong as ever. It was produced and written by Blair, and engineered and mixed by Juno and Western Canadian Music Award winner Sheldon Zaharko.


Watch Blair’s new video for Butterfly Wings here!